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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Tyre

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or TYRUS, was a famous city of Phenicia. Its Hebrew name is ציר or צר , which signifies a rock. The city of Tyre was allotted to the tribe of Asher, Joshua 19:29 , with the other maritime cities of the same coast; but it does not appear that the Asherites ever drove out the Canaanites. Isaiah 23:12 , calls Tyre the daughter of Sidon, that is, a colony from it. Homer never speaks of Tyre, but only of Sidon. Josephus says, that Tyre was built not above two hundred and forty years before the temple of Solomon; which would be in A.M. 2760, two hundred years after Joshua. Tyre was twofold, insular and continental. Insular Tyre was certainly the most ancient; for this it was which was noticed by Joshua: the continental city, however, as being more commodiously situated, first grew into consideration, and assumed the name of Palaetyrus, or Old Tyre. Want of sufficient attention to this distinction, has embarrassed both the Tyrian chronology and geography. Insular Tyre was confined to a small rocky island, eight hundred paces long, and four hundred broad, and could never exceed two miles in circumference. But Tyre, on the opposite coast, about half a mile from the sea, was a city of vast extent, since many centuries after its demolition by Nebuchadnezzar, the scattered ruins measured nineteen miles round, as we learn from Pliny and Strabo. Of these, the most curious and surprising are, the cisterns of Roselayne, designed to supply the city with water; of which there are three still entire; about one or two furlongs from the sea, so well described by Maundrell, for their curios construction and solid masonry. Old Tyre withstood the mighty Assyrian power, having been besieged in vain, by Shalmaneser, for five years; although he cut off their supplies of water from the cisterns; which they remedied by digging wells within the city. it afterward held out thirteen years against Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and was at length taken; but not until the Tyrians had removed their effects to the insular town, and left nothing but the bare walls to the victor, which he demolished. What completed the destruction of the city was, that Alexander afterward made use of these materials to build a prodigious causeway, or isthmus, above half a mile long, to the insular city, which revived, as the phoenix, from the ashes of the old, and grew to great power and opulence, as a maritime state; and which he stormed after a most obstinate siege of five months. Pococke observes, that "there are no signs of the ancient city; and as it is a sandy shore, the face of every thing is altered, and the great aqueduct is in many parts almost buried in the sand." Thus has been fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel: "Thou shalt be built no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again," Ezekiel 26:21 . The fate of insular Tyre has been no less remarkable. When Alexander stormed the city, he set fire to it. This circumstance was foretold. "Tyre did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire," Zechariah 9:3-4 . After this terrible calamity, Tyre again retrieved her losses. Only eighteen years after, she had recovered such a share of her ancient commerce and opulence, as enabled her to stand a siege of fourteen months against Antigonus, before he could reduce the city; but after this, Tyre fell alternately under the dominion of the kings of Syria and Egypt, and then of the Romans, until it was taken by the Saracens, about A.D. 639, retaken by the Crusaders. A.D. 1124; and at length sacked and razed by the Mamelukes of Egypt, with Sidon, and other strong towns, that they might no longer harbour the Christians, A.D. 1289.

The final desolation of Tyre was thus foretold: "I will scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock: it shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God." "I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon: thou shalt be built no more; for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord God." Nothing can be more literally and astonishingly executed than this sentence. Huetius relates of one Hadrianus Parvillerius, that "when he approached the ruins of Tyre, and beheld the rocks stretched forth to the sea, and the great stones scattered up and down on the shore, made clean and smooth by the sun and waves and wind, and useful only for the drying of fishermen's nets, many of which happened at the time to be spread thereon, it brought to his memory the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Tyre, that such should be its fate." Maundrell, who visited the Holy Land, A.D. 1697, describes it thus: "This city, standing in the sea upon a peninsula, promises at a distance, something very magnificent; but when your come to it, you find no similitude of that glory for which it was so renowned in ancient times, and which the prophet Ezekiel describes, 26, ZEC 27:28. On the north side it has an old Turkish ungarrisoned castle; beside which, you see nothing here but a mere Babel of broken walls, pillars, vaults, &c; there being not so much as one entire house left! Its present inhabitants are only a few poor wretches harbouring themselves in the vaults, and subsisting chiefly by fishing: who seem to be preserved in this place by Divine Providence, as a visible argument how God has fulfilled his word concerning Tyre, namely, that it should be as the top of a rock; a place for fishers to dry their nets upon, Ezekiel 26:14 ." Hasselquist, who saw it since, in A.D. 1751, observes as follows: "None of those cities which were formerly famous are so totally ruined as Tyre, now called Zur, except Troy. Zur now scarcely can be called a miserable village, though it was formerly Tyre, the queen of the sea. Here are about ten inhabitants, Turks and Christians, who live by fishing." Bruce, who visited this country about eighty years after Maundrell, says, that "passing by Tyre from curiosity, I came to be a mournful witness of the truth of that prophecy, that Tyre, the queen of nations, should be a rock for fishers to dry their nets on." Mr. Buckingham, who visited it in 1816, represents it as containing about eight hundred substantial stone-built houses, and from five to eight thousand inhabitants. But Mr. Jowett, on the authority of the Greek archbishop, reduces this number to less than four thousand; namely, one thousand two hundred Greek Catholics, one hundred Maronites, one hundred Greeks, one thousand Montonalis, and one hundred Turks. Mr. Jowett observed numerous and beautiful columns stretched along the beach, or standing in fragments half buried in the sand, that has been accumulating for ages: "the broken aqueduct, and the ruins which appear in its neighbourhood, exist as an affecting monument of the fragile and transitory nature of earthly grandeur." Mr. Joliffe states, that there now exist scarcely any traces of this once powerful city. "Some miserable cabins, ranged in irregular lines, dignified with the name of streets, and a few buildings of a rather better description, occupied by the officers of government, compose nearly the whole of the town. It still makes, indeed, some languishing efforts at commerce, and contrives to export annually to Alexandria cargoes of silk and tobacco; but the amount merits no consideration. The noble dust of Alexander, traced by the imagination till found stopping a beer barrel, would scarcely afford a stronger contrast of grandeur and debasement, than Tyre, at the period of being besieged by that conqueror, and the modern town of Tsour erected on its ashes."

As commercial cities, says Mansford, ancient Alexandria and London may be considered as approaching, the nearest to Tyre. But Alexandria, during the whole of her prosperous days, was subject to foreign rule; and London, great as are her commerce and her wealth, and possessing as she does almost a monopoly of what has in all ages been the most enviable, and most lucrative branch of trade, that with the east, does not centre in herself, as Tyre did, without a rival and without competition, the trade of all nations, and hold an absolute monopoly, not of one, but of every branch of commerce. For the long period of a thousand years, not a single production of the east passed to the west, or of the west to the east, but by the merchants of Tyre. Nor for many ages were any ships found but those of Tyre daring enough to pass the straits of the Red Sea on one side, or of the Mediterranean on the other. While the vessels of other countries were groping along their coasts, clinging to their landmarks, and frightened at a breeze, the ships of Tyre were found from Spain, if not from Britain, on the west, to the coast of Malabar and Sofala on the east and south. No wonder that her merchants were princes, and that they lived in a style of magnificence unknown in any other country in the same age; or that she should be considered a desirable prey by the conquerors of the times. But enterprise and wealth did not alone complete the character of the Tyrians; they had an undoubted claim to valour of no common order. Their city, which possessed scarcely any territory beyond their own walls, maintained a siege of thirteen years (the longest in history except that of Ashdod) against the whole power of Babylon; and another of seven months against Alexander, whose successes had afforded no instance of similar delay. And in neither case had the captors much to boast of, as the Tyrians had shipped off their most valuable property to Carthage; and in the former particularly, as has been already related, they so effectually secured or sacrificed the whole, that the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar found nothing to reward them for their length of labour, during which, by excessive toil and heat, "their heads were made bald, and their very shoulders peeled," but vacant streets, and houses already sacked. Carthage, Utica, and Cadiz, are celebrated monuments of the power of Tyre on the Mediterranean, and in the west. She extended her navigation even into the ocean, and carried her commerce beyond England to the north, and the Canaries to the south. Her connections with the east, though less known, were not less considerable; the islands of Tyrus and Aradus, (the modern Bahrain,) in the Persian Gulf. The cities of Faran and Phoenicum Oppidum, on the Red Sea, in ruins even in the time of the Greeks, prove that the Tyrians had long frequented the coast of Arabia and the Indian Sea. But, through the vicissitudes of time, Tyre, reduced to a miserable village, has no other trade than the exportation of a few sacks of corn and raw cotton, nor any merchant, says Volney, but a single Greek factor in the service of the French Saide, (Sidon,) who scarcely takes sufficient profit to maintain his family. In allusion to Tyre in her better days, Forbes observes, when speaking of Surat, "The bazars, filled with costly merchandise; picturesque and interesting groups of natives on elephants, camels, horses, and mules; strangers from all parts of the globe, in their respective costume; vessels braiding on the stocks, others navigating the river; together with Turks, Persians, and Armenians, on Arabian chargers; European ladies in splendid carriages, the Asiatic females in hackeries drawn by oxen; and the motley appearance of the English and nabob's troops on the fortifications, remind us of the following description of Tyre, ‘O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, which art a merchant of the people for many isles,' &c, Ezekiel 27:3 . This in a true picture of oriental commerce in ancient times; and a very exact description of the port and the bazars of Surat, at the present day."

Dr. Vincent has given the following able illustration of the trade of Tyre as described in Ezekiel 27, which must be considered as one of the most ample and early accounts extant. The learned author has rendered the Hebrew names into others better known in the geography of more recent times;—Tyre produced from Hermon, and the mountains near it, fir for planking; and from Libanus, cedars for masts. From Bashan, east of the sea of Galilee, oaks for oars. From Greece, or the Grecian isles, ivory to adorn the benches or the waists of the galleys. From Egypt, linen, ornamented with different colours for sails, or flags, or ensigns. From Peloponnesus, blue and purple cloths for awnings. From Sidon and Aradus, mariners; but Tyre itself furnished pilots and commanders. From Gebal, or Biblos, on the coast between Tripolis and Berytus, caulkers. From Persia and Africa, mercenary troops. From Aradus, the troops that garrisoned Tyre with the Gamadim. From Tarshish, or by distant voyages toward the west, and toward the east, great wealth, iron, tin, lead, and silver. Tin implies Britain or Spain, or at least a voyage beyond the Straits of Hercules. From Greece, and the countries bordering on Pontus, slaves, and brass ware. From Armenia, horses, horsemen, and mules. From the Gulf of Persia, and the isles within that gulf, horns, (tusks) of ivory, and ebony. The export to these isles was the manufacture of Tyre. From Syria, emeralds, purple, broidered work, fine linen, coral, and agate. The exports to Syria were the manufactures of Tyre in great quantities. From Judah and Israel, the finest wheat, honey, oil, and balsam. From Damascus, wine of Chalybon, (the country bordering on the modern Aleppo,) and wool in the fleece. The exports to Damascus were costly and various manufactures. From the tribe of Dan, situated nearest to the Philistines, the produce of Arabia, bright or wrought iron, cassia or cinnamon, and the calamus aramaticus. In conducting the transport of these articles, Dan went to and fro, that is, formed or conducted the caravans. By one interpretation, they are said to come from Uzal; and Uzal is said to be Sana, the capital of Yemen, or Arabia Felix. From the Gulf of Persia, rich cloth for the decoration of chariots or horsemen. From Arabia Petraea and Hedjaz, lambs, and rams, and goats. From Sabea and Oman, the best of spices. From India, gold, and precious stones. From Mesopotamia, from Carrhae and Babylonia, the Assyrians brought all sorts of exquisite things; that is, fine manufacture, blue cloth, and broidered work, or fabric of various colours, in chests of cedar bound with cords, containing rich apparel. If these articles were obtained farther from the east, may they not be the fabrics of India, first brought to Assyria by the Gulf of Persia, or by caravans from Karmania, and the Indus, and then conveyed by the Assyrians, in other caravans, to Tyre and Syria? In this view, the care of package, the chests of cedar, and the cording of the chests, are all correspondent to the nature of such a transport. From Tarshish the ships came that rejoiced in the markets of Tyre: they replenished the city, and made it glorious in the midst of the sea, Ezekiel 27:5-25 . Dr. Vincent observes, that from the Tarshish last mentioned the ships returned to the ports in the Red Sea; as from the nineteenth to the twenty-fourth verse every particular relates to the east, while that referred to in the twelfth implies the west—Spain, or beyond. We have here some light thrown on the obscurity which surrounds the situation of this distant and unknown place. There is, indeed, a clear reference to two distinct places, or parts of the world, denominated Tarshish; perhaps from those very circumstances, their distance, and the little that was known respecting them. That one was situated westward, and reached by a passage across the Mediterranean, is certain from other parts of Scripture; that the other was eastward, or southward, on the coast of Arabia, India, or Africa, is equally certain. See TARSHISH , and See OPHIR .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Tyre'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/t/tyre.html. 1831-2.

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